May 5, 2016
This was an unusual week this summer. Of the films that opened, there was only one new Hollywood film and three Filipino films. Of the three, there were a couple of mainstream rom-coms starring popular actors which will definitely hit it big. And then, there was this other odd man out. I was drawn to watch this film that dared to go against what is popular.
"Diyos-Diyosan" starts its story in 1986, just after the EDSA Revolution. It is a story about a teenager Bernard Mojica and his favorite teacher Ms. Estrella Subido. Ms. Subido, while admirable for her intense love of country, was cynical about anything religious. She taught her students that only they themselves determine their future.
Ms. Subido quit teaching and joined an NGO supporting rebel causes. Later because of tragedy, she has a complete change of heart and becomes a deeply religious advocate and catechist. Bernard graduated Valedictorian, then bucking his poverty and broken family, he went to UP Law, became a Governor, a Senator and then ultimately mounted a campaign for the Presidency.
They cross paths again in the present time during the 30th year anniversary of their high school class. As they catch up on each other's lives, the teacher finds out just how deeply her star student had imbibed the secular philosophy she had ingrained in them before.
This is a long film, with a 2-1/2 hours running time. It follows thirty years in the lives of two people, and the various experiences that molded their lives into their present statuses. I felt it could have actually been a miniseries or tele-novela on television than just one long movie. It tried to capture so many issues -- negligent parents, college fraternities, armed insurgency, dirty and deadly politics, corrupt government officials, religious renewal. This is a very busy and ambitious film indeed, albeit with mixed results.
Princess Punzalan had not lost her touch for drama even after her long absence in films. Her portrayal of Ms. Subido was sincere and heartfelt, very touching in her delivery of lines. John Prats tried his best, but his physical disconnect with the role tended to work against him. Because he did not really look poor, he was obviously wearing unevenly-applied darkening makeup on his face during his high school scenes. He would eventually look right for his role when he was already a rich (probably Belo-fied) politician. However by then, he would look too young to be running for president.
This film by Cesar Evangelista Buendia is not abashed with their religious intentions as it was clear from its poster and opening credits. On one hand, it could feel like a pastiche of Lenten specials of noontime shows promoting repentance for our sins. However, on the other hand, one could also look at it as an admirable effort to shake the jaded populace back to their senses by making us clearly see what is wrong with our society nowadays. Its script, editing and cinematography may be occasionally roughshod, but its intentions, message and heart are definitely in the right place. 6/10.